There is a Japanese business philosophy called Kaizen, meaning continuous improvement. It’s a philosophy that England should use when selecting their final XI for the second Test against Pakistan, which starts on Thursday.
The hosts may have won the first Test of the series at Old Trafford, but they didn’t have the smoothest ride to get there. A first innings deficit of 107 runs and a second innings where England were 5-117 before Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes saved the day doesn’t exactly scream a comfortable victory to me.
England were helped by Pakistan serving up a classic example of their unpredictability with the tourists folding in their second innings. This is why England shouldn’t be complacent and instead, through Kaizen, look to work on what went wrong for them in the first Test to improve for the second Test.
Shane Warne mentioned in commentary how Australia would aim to score 600 runs in a match to put them in the box seat. England should use exactly the same strategy.
So what’s the best XI for England to score 600 runs and take 20 wickets?
Well, there is one forced change that needs to be made after Sunday’s announcement that Ben Stokes will miss the rest of the series for family reasons.
While this is an unfortunate circumstance, England can take this opportunity to bring Zak Crawley back in the side at number 3. This will allow Joe Root to bat at number 4, where he is most comfortable.
After Stokes picked up an injury in the second Test against the West Indies, England have been playing with one fewer batsman to bolster the bowling attack due to Stokes not being able to bowl.
This was a problem that looked to have been solved in the first Test against Pakistan as Stokes bowled four overs in Pakistan’s second innings, taking 2-11.
Not being a batsman light should bring England more stability at the top of the order. But that may not be possible now that Stokes is not playing.
England’s top five should be locked in though with Rory Burns and Dominic Sibley opening, Crawley at 3, Root at 4, and Ollie Pope coming in at 5.
Jos Buttler presents England with a wicketkeeping dilemma.
Buttler had a poor performance behind the stumps, missing stumpings and catches, including dropping Shan Masood on 45 in the first innings. Shan went on to score 156 runs.
However, Buttler saved himself in England’s run chase. He knew he owed England runs and he duly delivered, forming a 139-run sixth wicket partnership with Chris Woakes and helping England get out of a tricky situation from 5-117 to 6-256 by the time he was dismissed for 75.
As Buttler put in a brilliant display with the bat, I would keep him in the side as a specialist batsman and try something different by giving the wicketkeeping gloves to Ben Foakes.
The eye-catching statistic with Foakes is that he has taken two stumpings in his relatively short Test career, compared to Buttler’s zero.
Foakes is considered to be the best keeper in the country and can be handy with the bat too. He scored a century on debut against Sri Lanka in 2018 and averaged 41.5 across five Tests.
While that figure is likely to be skewed by the century, Foakes’ Test average is backed up by his first-class average, which stands at 38.01, with nine hundreds and 30 fifties scored.
For me, he would be a great addition to the side and England should give him another go behind the stumps.
If things don’t work out, then Buttler gets re-instated as keeper. It’s as simple as that.
As for the bowling attack, the only change I’d make is to leave James Anderson out for at least the second Test. He only took one wicket in the first Test and didn’t look at his best.
England have been rotating their bowlers all summer due to the condensed schedule. There’s no doubt that Anderson has still got a lot left to give but he just needs to be rested for this Test.
That leaves the bowling attack for the second Test as: Chris Woakes, Dominic Bess, Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad.
The tail end of the order should be mixed up a bit. Woakes should come in at number 8 with Stuart Broad at 9, Archer at 10, and Bess at 11.
I’m not comfortable with seeing Bess come in at 8 and falling cheaply before Broad comes in at 10 and starts knocking the bowlers around the park.
Of course, Broad will reign himself in when he needs to, but the point still stands. He should be batting a little higher up the order.
After all, Broad was batting at number 9 when he scored his one and only century back in 2010.
So the England XI I’d like to see for the second Test against Pakistan is as follows:
1. Rory Burns
2. Dominic Sibley
3. Zak Crawley
4. Joe Root (captain)
5. Ollie Pope
6. Jos Buttler
7. Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper)
8. Chris Woakes
9. Stuart Broad
10. Jofra Archer
11. Dominic Bess
Let’s see if England share my views when the team is announced at the toss on Thursday.